Revised High Intensity Support Skills Descriptors

September 7, 2023

As of 1 February, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission’s updated High Intensity Support Skills Descriptors have come into effect. The updates were designed to improve the quality of care for NDIS participants.

There are no new skill descriptors; rather, the current ones have been amended to be more reflective of person-centred practices.

Let’s break down the revised High Intensity Skills Descriptors.

What are the High Intensity Support Skills Descriptors (HISSD)?

These skills descriptors provide a clear framework for the skills and knowledge required to provide high-quality support to individuals with complex needs. 

They cover a range of areas, including communication, behaviour support, and medical care. Under the NDIS, service providers must ensure support workers can satisfy the requirements of the skill descriptors to have the necessary expertise and provide effective person-centred care.

What are the updates?

1. General updates

  • The skills descriptors’ content now aligns with contemporary practice and expert advice
  • The format and language parallel the Workforce Capability Framework’s language and participant focus

2. Participant-related updates

The skill descriptors have a heightened focus on participant engagement and control regarding their support.

3. Updates to High Intensity Daily Personal Activities

  • There is a new descriptor in the Dysphagia Skill Descriptor.
  • Integration of the stoma care skill descriptor into the descriptors for bowel care, enteral feeding, tracheostomy support, ventilator support, and supporting people who use urinary catheters.
  • Wound care is now a skill descriptor instead of additional advice.
  • Certain skill descriptors have optional guidance for supporting common applications, e.g. subcutaneous injections provide direction for supporting a participant with managing diabetes.
  • No changes to the skill descriptor for managing epilepsy and seizures.
  • The mealtime management skill descriptor is now included as an additional capability in the Workforce Capability Framework.

4. Training and knowledge updates

With the new changes, there is a stronger emphasis on support workers maintaining their currency of skills and knowledge.


In short, service providers must ensure that their support workers maintain their skills and knowledge and that they are up-to-date and reflect industry standards. This is particularly relevant if a participant’s support plan changes or if there is a change of support workers.

Service providers should therefore provide support workers with periodic reassessment and refresher disability awareness training. It also means that service providers must document this training, as it is subject to their three-year and mid-term audits.

Complying with the High Intensity Support Skill Descriptors

With all these changes, the question remains: how do I comply with the High Intensity Support Skill Descriptors?

etrainu’s Complex Care Essentials helps you do just that. We developed this suite of courses in partnership with Essential Skills Training and Recruitment, which provides accredited and non-accredited training to the community services sectors. 

The Complex Care Essentials eLearning library is a comprehensive resource designed for healthcare professionals and service providers and mapped to the NDIS High Intensity Support Skill Descriptors. Through our courses, you can gain or improve your knowledge and skills in caring for patients with complex needs.

It is also mapped to 23 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points via the Nursing and Midwifery CPD requirements, making it an efficient and effective way for healthcare professionals to meet their ongoing professional development requirements.

Additionally, we offer our Complex Care Refresher Training so that you can maintain your currency of knowledge and skills.

Final thoughts

If you want to read more about the revised High Intensity Support Skills Descriptors,  the NDIS Commission has published an FAQ document.

Overall, these updates are an important step forward in improving the quality of care for NDIS participants with complex needs. 

Aalia Hussein
Instructional Designer and Writer
Imaginative and inventive, Aalia is etrainu’s resident writer. She has a passion for weaving words together and storytelling. She’s in charge of etrainu’s content, creating engaging and immersive experiences across learning and marketing.

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